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24-hour novel comes out of global leap collaboration
ADITI UBEROI  4th Mar 2012

The Delhi team in the German Book Office

o celebrate World Book Day on 1 March, a group of writers and editors got together in four cities across the world on 29 February to write a novel in 24 hours and publish an e-book version. The novel entitled LEAP, after the famous date that comes only once in four years, can be downloaded at spreadtheword.org.uk. The project was initiated by Spread the Word foundation and was funded by Arts Council, England.

Core teams of five to eight professional writers each were put together in Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and London. Each team worked with about two editors for 12 hours, from 10am GMT. Everything was written and simultaneously edited using Google Documents.

In India, the Delhi team worked at the German Book Office from 3pm. The writers were Amrit Shetty, Amana Fontanella-Khan, Karuna Ezara Parikh, Nirupama Subramanium and Nistula Hebbar. Ameya Nagarajan of Penguin and Prema Govindan of HarperCollins were the editors. The work of the Delhi team was coordinated by Neelini Sarkar, also an editor at HarperCollins India.

The team confessed that they were all excited and nervous about how the project would pan out. Before it started, Shetty said, "To work on a book with six ladies, all from major publications and news agencies is a daunting prospect."

Parikh concurred and added, "Before and even during the afternoon, I thought it might end up being a disaster. But after several slices of pizza, garlic bread, several cups of tea and coffee and many cigarettes, everything seemed to fall in place."

Every team across the world wrote about one protagonist who was travelling to a different part of the world. The Delhi team's protagonist, Tanya Bhatia, travels to Vancouver. In the end, the protagonists from the Delhi team and Vancouver team meet and the entire novel culminates in an epilogue.

Sarkar said that the experience was full of laughter and discussions over tiny details about Bhatia's background, her hair styles, siblings etc. "The best part was the brain-storming. Normally, most writers are possessive and closed about their works. But here was a room full of them working in tandem and enjoying themselves thoroughly. Even as editors, it was an enriching experience, as two different publishing houses were represented. Usually, we are only conversant with our own house-style."

After reading the part produced by the Delhi team, most writers remarked on how unbelievably cohesive the effort was. Subramanium felt this was a very interesting message to send out on World Book Day (1 March). "An important statement that the project would make is that experimentation is good for writing. Also, the process does not always have to be one of suffering and seclusion. If one wants, one can also work in collaboration and in company and yet produce a work that is very enjoyable," she opined.

Editor Prema Govindan said everything went smooth for the Delhi team. "However, combining all four parts written in the different cities and writing the final, conclusive epilogue did take some effort. The final product, however, is very racy, urban and fun in its tone," she said.

Any proceeds from the online sales of the published book will go to the San Francisco-based charitable organisation, Room to Read, which supports primary education and encourages the reading habit in underprivileged children across the world.

 
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